Designers and artists Jennifer Chilstrom and Kimberly Jurek create clothing that honors sustainability and freedom in personal style for their brand Kindred Folk. They specialize in unique textile design for truly one-of-a-kind clothing. Their focus is women’s elevated boho chic essentials for the body and adornment and unique art and accessories for the home. Jen and Kim produce our work in Minneapolis at their studio in the NE Arts District and are available for customs and commissioned pieces. They honor sustainability and use natural, organic, and upcycled products and dyes. Their mantra: "Stay inspired. Find your community. Become Kindred Folk."
Photo by Shelly Mosman
Talk about the beginnings of Kindred Folk. What inspired you begin this endeavor?
J&K: Kindred Folk is the new beginning and re-imagining of a 6 year old partnership between two local creatives. Our new branding and identity are important to us because it will allow us to continue to grow the vision we have for creating boho clothing, accessories, adornment, home decor, and more. Kindred Folk describes our relationship to each other, each other's ideas and unique esthetic, it also describes our relationship, commitment and ongoing work with the community, the arts and our collective work with our uptown boutique Showroommpls.com
Have you always been creative? What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
J: From the time I was just barely a toddler, I was making drawings, messes, sculptures, music, writing with whatever I could get my hands on. I started studying classical music in 3rd grade and played the flute, trumpet and trombone. In 6th grade my class performed a play I wrote and designed costumes for. When I was 15, one of my first jobs was as an apprentice to a calligrapher. A year later I started working for the Pink's family galleries in Downtown Minneapolis. I studied my last two years of high school at MCAD and studied master painting at a fine art atelier called The Bougie Studio. In '97 I moved to the pacific northwest and in addition to creating/ showing visual art, I began designing and selling clothing and journals made from of recycled materials. This evolved into costume design for bands and theater, in addition to touring the coast doing various fashion shows. I ran galleries in Portland, Park City, Salt Lake and I traveled a lot.
After I moved back to Minneapolis in 2004, I started teaching art and eventually directing a non-profit after school arts program. In 2012 Kim and I began meeting with the design community to discuss and further develop our plans to open a design collective in Uptown Minneapolis. In addition to working with over 30 local design brands to date, I have exhibited the work of more than 30 local visual artists. In 2014 I opened my home to local musicians, yogis and for 6 months hosted a private listening room and community yoga classes- a space where musicians could play their original compositions and yogis could teach outdoors for donation based sessions. I now share a studio in the Northrup King Building where I paint and where Kindred Folk does production work. I continue to create and show visual art and have art in several states.
K: From a young age, my mom and grandmother taught me lot's of creative skills that encouraged me to continue onto my chosen path as a designer. My mom taught me how to cook, sew, care for fabrics, cross-stitch and embroidery. I remember going to visit my grandparents with my sisters in the summer and each getting to pick out a sewing or embroidery project to work on while we were staying with them. I could hardly wait to finish the sewing and art projects that I began because I was anxious to wear or give them away. My first fashion exhibition was at our local county fair through 4-H fashion review. I got to make an outfit and model it every year from when I was about 10-17. One of my proudest moments was winning the purple ribbon and getting to take my look to the state fair!
I was also very musically driven - I loved to sing solos in choir and for competition, played piano and also was the lead snare drummer in my high school marching band and drumline for 4 years. In my senior year, I wrote and performed along with our drumline a song I wrote the percussion composition for. It was so nerve racking, fun, and rewarding to be able to see my efforts being played out in front of my peers (not unlike a fashion show now).
I graduated from Augsburg College with a BA in Studio Art in 2007. 2004-2005 I was lucky enough to be able to study fashion design in Florence Italy at the Accademia Italianna. There I learned how to draw form and figures, spent some wonderful time working on painting landscapes, color composition, learned how to coordinate collections, how to speak Italian, how to live in another country, made wonderful friendships and had life changing experiences. I knew while I was there that I was on track and began making plans to show and sell my work when I got back to Minneapolis.
Travel continues to be a favorite love for continued inspiration of Kindred Folk. I love how things are different and the same in other parts of the world, it's refreshing being able to get lost somewhere and be an observer of all kinds of things. It's a way for me to relax and become inspired to create something new.
How have the items you make evolved? How have you evolved as artists and businesswomen?
J: For me, designing and creating our textiles each season has been an ongoing conversation between my visual art and design work. I'm always inspired by the natural world, by the human form and I think that will always be present and evolving in all forms of my work. Having the opportunity to work toward supporting the arts community means everything to me. I'm always taking these opportunities to improve the work I do... to learn, share and grow.
K: So much has changed and also come full circle for me since I began making and designing clothing. I remember this really great pair of harem pants made from this beautiful lightweight Indian cotton that I made when I was in my teens - and my travels to Italy and Argentina in my 20's and 30's got me inspired to bring that silhouette back to our current collections. I think the biggest change and improvement is the fit and finishing of our pieces. I am so proud of our continued growth at making our pieces with great attention to detail. The pieces don't have to be complex, but it does have to be well put together and the fit has to be spot on, Jen and I work tirelessly to continue improving our patterns with the feedback we get from our clients. Having Showroom had really changed how we can interact with our clients. We can meet them, they can let us know what is working or not working and we can make improvements based on our one-on-one client feedback. It's pretty awesome!
In honoring sustainability and using natural, organic, and upcycled products and dyes, what do you hope to provide or communicate to customers?
J: It's time. It's time not just to wake up, I think many of us are aware of the dangers of fast fashion. I'm not just talking about tremendous waste, I'm talking about slave wages and dangerous conditions for workers - primarily women and children. So how do we start creating community based solutions? How do we tell a story together that not only empowers a shopper but empowers these shoppers to stand up to industries that are not sustainable or ethical in their practices. We vote with our dollars when we support our local makers and we need to educate our communities about electing people into positions of power who support the kind of industry standards that make life a better place for everyone. We want our story, products, process and creative spaces to become conduits for change.
K: We are what we wear! I think it's easier than ever to be able to see the effects of the fast fashion movement because we are all so connected with social media. No more excuses. I know that when people come into our shop and purchase something, they are making a real difference in that person's life. They are helping to support and help make that designer's business and life viable. By shopping local and independent brands you are saying yes to small business, yes to creativity, yes to independent makers, yes to community. I am constantly learning about how I can make my own lifestyle better impact my family and my community through buying organic, local foods, shopping locally for gifts and for Kindred Folk using organic fabrics, dyes, making and producing things locally is an natural extension of this. I think being more aware of how our dollars can impact our community is important and helps encourages change, conversation and some different decisions.
How has living and making in Minnesota influenced your creative work, specifically through Kindred Folk? What is the fashion scene like here?
J: Each MN season lends new inspiration points for our collections. I love the community that happens at Showroom. Designers, artists, jewelers and clients engaging and sharing in the creative process.
K: I love that the fashion scene in Minneapolis is kind of it's own thing... we follow trends but have our own take on them. The community of MN Fashion, Showroom and more recently the Minneapolis Craft Markets are great for local makers. They give us a platform to show and sell our work as well as a voice to tell our stories.
Do you like to experiment with different fabrics, materials, or techniques in your work?
J: I love going to thrift stores and finding interesting, elegant fabrics to repurpose, hand dye or paint/embroider on. I've been hand painting our current runway collection (for Envision's 10 Year Anniversary) with different calligraphy brushes using special paints designed for silk. I'm using new shibori techniques on flare pants and high waisted skirts that will be a capsule collection for our fall line. We are also doing some really lovely hand beading and embellishing - we can't wait to show you!
K: Yes! I think each season there is something new whether it be our fabrics, embellishments, textile techniques and/or construction choices. It's exciting to learn a new technique or skill. This collection we are working with some different metal collar pieces as well as hand beading with these gorgeous onyx crystal beads. We are pretty excited about it and I think it will knock your socks off!
Do you feel like your work allows you to contribute to something bigger than yourself?
J: I really believe in connecting local artists and makers with opportunities. To bring their art to new and unexpected audiences. I think that so many diverse stories deserve to have a voice, a home, a place to grow, develop, and build/engage community. Having a group of dynamic small businesses that are all in different stages of development means that we get to share a lot of resources and information. The Showroom community provides the kind of support that can be hard to find. Our experiences have meaning and are a dynamic part of our growth.
K: I am thankful every day for the opportunities I have to work with and alongside many creatives in the Showroom community. It means the world to me to be able to share, grow, have a support structure and community which I am a part of. I am not alone. We are not alone. I think as a creative it's easy to feel alone, but within Showroom that isn't the case. I feel very lucky to be able to have that resource.